FLINT is the latest film by one of the UK's leading documentary filmmakers, Anthony Baxter, who comes from Angus. Anthony's previous films include the award-winning You've Been Trumped (2011), A Dangerous Game (2014) and You've Been Trumped Too (2016).
The Flint water crisis is a public health crisis that started in 2014, after the drinking water source for the city of Flint, Michigan was changed. Filmed over five years and starting even before revelations of water toxicity came to light, FLINT captures a man-made disaster that poisoned an entire American city.
The film unfolds through the perspectives of Flint's residents, and is narrated by Alec Baldwin. Alongside Anthony, the production is produced by Emmy award-winning Producer, Sabrina Gordon, award-winning Journalist, Richard Phinney, and Scientist turned Filmmaker, Justin Weinstein.
This incredibly important film will receive its World Premiere at the 2020 Glasgow Film Festival on Sunday 1 March. Ahead of the first public screenings, we spoke to Anthony about the film, the messaging behind it.
When did you decide you were going to make this documentary, and what about the issue motivated you to?
"It was the summer of 2015 and I had been in Detroit, Michigan to do a special free screening of a previous film – A Dangerous Game – for the city’s residents who were being affected by mass water shut-offs for non-payment of bills in the city.
"One of the themes of that film, was water. And after the screening, residents from nearby Flint got in touch about an issue that was seriously affecting them. Ever since their water had been switched to the local river as a cost saving measure by the State of Michigan, they’d noticed huge problems after drinking it – from skin rashes, to hair falling out. I went through to Flint and discovered there were also major concerns about lead levels in the water.
"A group of local mothers were planning to do a city-wide test of the water, as the people in authority had refused to help them, and had reached out to Professor Marc Edwards from Virginia Tech University – one of the country’s leading experts on lead in water.
"The tests, which we followed, revealed toxic waste levels of lead in the water supply. I continued to film, and the story made headlines around the world later that year, when Professor Edwards’ test results were made public.
"After the cameras left Flint, I felt it was very important to continue documenting the residents’ plight. Little did I know then though, about all the dramatic twists and turns in the story that lay ahead."
How does Flint follow on from your previous productions like You've Been Trumped and A Dangerous Game?
"Both films were very much a David vs Goliath battle and followed people who weren’t being listened to by those in power. And in Flint it’s a very similar situation. And as we saw recently from the Grenfell Tower disaster in London, residents had raised the alarm but weren’t being listened to. In that case it was the cladding and fire safety measures that caused them sleepless nights. And as we now know through the horror of what happened there – they were 100% right to be concerned.
"In Flint, residents were 100% right to raise a red flag about using the river water which had been a dumping ground for years – as their drinking water. Time after time they were assured the water was ‘safe.' It was not. And as we now know, an entire city was then poisoned."
How did the Work in Progress screenings impact the final version of the film?
"By holding work-in-progress screenings in several US cities, we were able to understand more clearly what aspects of the film were most important to audiences. It was also incredibly inspiring to discover how people there were so concerned about Flint’s residents, that this is not a story the people of America have forgotten.
"But many people haven’t had a chance to see the whole picture. Just because Flint has fallen off the national news, it doesn’t mean the problem has been fixed – as the film reveals. From those screening, we now have the finished film to unveil in Glasgow."